By Karen Tweedie, 2009 International Coach Federation President and ICF Professional Certified Coach
Perhaps you’ve read something about it in a newspaper. Maybe you even know someone who has hired a coach. Does it really work? The International Coach Federation (ICF) set out to answer that question with its most recent research effort—the ICF Global Coaching Client Study. The ICF, the leading global organisation for professional coaches, with over 16,000 members in more than 90 countries, released the final report of its ICF Global Coaching Client Study in March 2009. The study, conducted by
Results from this research cast a favorable light on the work being conducted by coaches all over the world. Reflective of the global results, a strong majority—78.5 percent—of individuals in the European/Middle Eastern/African region (EMEA) who have experienced professional coaching report being “very satisfied” with their coaching experience. An overwhelming number of EMEA clients (96.9 percent) reported that they would repeat their coaching experience, given the same circumstances.
The impressively high satisfaction rating for professional coaching can be correlated with a significant ROI for companies and individuals who use coaching. The median results indicate that the ROI from coaching is quite good. Global survey results show the median company return was 700 percent, or seven times the initial investment. In fact, these results show that, for those whom ROI could be calculated, a significant majority (68 percent for personal and 86 percent for company) reported that their return was at least 100 percent of their initial investment in coaching. It appears that clients from EMEA were a significant driver for these returns. The individuals from EMEA who experienced company coaching reported that their median company return was 1,567 percent, or nearly 16 times their investment in coaching.
In addition to a financial ROI, coaching clients who participated in the study were provided the opportunity to assess several overarching benefits of coaching—regardless of whether the coaching services they accessed were related to personal or business matters. In line with the global response, coaching clients from the Europe/Middle East/Africa region identified several categories as either a Primary Benefit (more than 80 percent of clients experienced a positive impact) or a Core Benefit (67 to 80 percent experienced a positive impact). For these respondents, the category of self-esteem/self-confidence (82 percent) emerged as a Primary Benefit; while, several additional categories were identified as Core Benefits, such as: relationships (76 percent), interpersonal skills (74 percent), communication skills (73 percent), work/life balance (66 percent), and work performance (72 percent).
Now let’s put a face on these results. At the 2008 ICF Annual International Conference, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was honoured, along side SYSCO Food Services of Canada, with the ICF International Prism Award. The Prism award recognises organisations whose commitment to coaching as a leadership strategy has enhanced their business performance standards and their business achievement.
Other groups who have received this award include IBM and Deloitte and Touche. Through their internal coaching programmes, these groups have sought to embed a coaching culture within their organisations.
“When I had just been appointed to my first Senior Managerial role, running BBC Choice (a digital channel), coaching taught me how to argue the case for my channel effectively with my bosses, thus improving its quality and effectiveness.”
The BBC remains the world’s largest broadcast media organisation today for several obvious reasons. One is their creative vision. Another is their sound business strategy. However, one reason for their continued success may be less apparent to others in the business world: their use of professional coaching.
With the revolutionary transformation of broadcast media over the past decade, the BBC did what any successful business would do. They reviewed their business strategy in order to retain their leading edge in the industry. Believing that leadership development was at the heart of any sound strategy, the BBC chose to use coaching as a key component of implementing their plans.
The BBC’s strategic focus for coaching is to: Help individuals increase their organisational and personal effectiveness; achieve identified business results; facilitate leaders to find their own solutions; improve relationships and communication within and between teams; retain key talent by providing individuals with support for their key performance; underpin the BBC’s core values; and facilitate newly appointed staff to transition with impact.
For the past seven years, a team of around 70 trained internal coaches have dedicated significant effort to achieving this. They have maintained their own senior and managerial roles whilst committing to coach three senior BBC staff at any one time. This has resulted in almost 500 individual coaching relationships a year.
“The returns to the BBC as an organisastion are extremely gratifying in themselves—and who knows just how far the ripples of each person’s coaching experience extends? An unexpected and wonderful bonus has been the community of coaches which has evolved—every one of them undergoes demanding training and continuous coaching supervision development,” said Liz Macann, Head of Executive Leadership and Management Coaching Network.
All coach training, supervision and development at the BBC is provided in house to employees for no cost. Additionally, departments are not charged for the engagement of internal coaches. Employees who have received coaching through the BBC programme report many positive effects, amongst them: improved ability to manage individual performance; increased effectiveness in developing strategy; increased ability to build better working relationships with other areas/departments; better ability to help people understand and deal with the dynamics of change; and an improved ability to motivate a team through uncertainty.
“The BBC has a strong portfolio of Training and Development for its staff, and one-to-one executive coaching has proved to be the glue which makes those things stick,” said Stephen Kelly, Director of BBC People.
Katherine Everett, BBC’s Director of Change, now a BCC-trained internal coach said: “When I had just been appointed to my first Senior Managerial role, running BBC Choice (a digital channel), coaching taught me how to argue the case for my channel effectively with my bosses, thus improving its quality and effectiveness.”
Results of the ICF Global Coaching Client Study and the success of the BBC internal coaching programme indicate that professional coaching is having a tremendous impact on individuals and businesses not only in Europe, but across the world.
The executive summary and final report of the ICF Global Coaching Client Study are available on the ICF’s Web site at www.Coachfederation.org.
For more information on professional coaching or to hire an ICF Credentialed coach, visit www.Coachfederation.org.
By Anthony Linix
Throwing yourself from the top of the nearest building might make good business sense right now. But some business coaches believe that diving headlong into the job has its setbacks, too.
In the wake of the current global recession, unemployment figures have risen faster than at anytime in living memory - and businesses continue to sink at an alarming rate. Of course, business coaches and training managers are often the first casualties to budget cuts. But is this really the way forward? Sailing rudderless through uncharted water is never the best plan of action.John Blakey, director of brand development at the UK branch International Coaching Federation believes that despite the downturn business coaching in this climate is more crucial than ever: "Senior managers need the sort of help that coaching can offer even more than 15 months ago if they are to retain their confidence, performance and presence as effective leaders," he explains.
Speculate to accumulate goes the old adage, but making the mental leap in a recession is hard. John Blakey illustrates the dilemma:
"What we are finding is that business decision makers still have faith in the value of coaching despite the current challenging times," he says. "In fact, they are looking for ever more 'creative' ways to ensure that their investment in coaching is preserved amidst aggressive budget cuts."
In fact, a recent report states that half of the training managers polled in 100 large companies including Xerox, Siemens, the NHS, Deutsche Bank, WHSmith, Barclays and Oracle said their budgets had been or will be cut during 2009. Less than 20% expect their budgets to increase during the downturn.
And yet business coaching could make all the difference for these companies and many others who are facing sink or swim scenarios. Unfortunately, for many senior managers who do see the merit of coaching, this means getting their staff trained through the back door.
"A managing director of a FTSE250 client of ours recently asked that we go ahead with a major coaching programme but requested that we avoid using the word 'training' in any of our invoicing in order that we would not fall foul of a training budget freeze. Another senior leader in a FTSE100 organisation managed to secure a significant coaching budget for him and his team despite the Learning and Development function having suspended all investments in this area some time ago."
Of course, the mood is the same across the Atlantic. Laura Berman Fortgang is coaching pioneer in the US with Fortune 500 clients. No stranger to visionary thinking, she anticipates rocky times ahead and sea changes to the coaching profession, but naturally she remains positive.
“There will be more need for coaches than ever, but the tricky thing is that people will think they can’t afford them. I believe the onus is on us to deliver coaching in new
ways that will allow us to still make money whilst making it accessible to different price conscious buyers.
“It will be important for coaches to break away from the one-to-one only model and deliver their services in groups, in shorter segments (like one month versus three) and
provide products that serve the client until they are more solvent.”
The bottom line is, as ever is rooted in results. If business coaches continue to provide their clients with good experiences, solutions, and above all value, then business will find ways of paying for their services.